A pending case in the U.S. Supreme Court out of Florida (Fane Lozman v. The City of Riviera Beach, Florida) deals with the question of whether a houseboat, more currently referred to as a “floating home,” can qualify as homestead under the Florida Constitution and Florida law.
Whenever the subject of homestead in Florida is discussed, it is confusing to the general public because there are two basic constitutional homestead concepts.
The first and most sacred one is under Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution, which protects a person from forced sale by creditors of one’s homestead property of up to one-half acre if located within a municipality, and 160 contiguous acres if outside a municipality.
The second homestead concept and the one most people are more familiar with is under Article VII, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution, which exempts from real estate taxes $25,000.00 of taxable value of the real estate on which the permanent residence of the owner is located.
The Florida Attorney General has previously issued an opinion that indicates that a “boat” cannot be eligible for a homestead tax exemption if it is not permanently affixed to the real estate owned by the owner of the “boat” and the boat is not capable of being used for transportation on the water.
A “floating home” may, however, be exempt as homestead from forced sale even if not located or docked adjacent to real estate that is owned by the “floating home” owner, but the “floating home” must pass the test of being incapable of being used for transportation on the waterways. That test is the issue that the Supreme Court must decide. In Florida, with regard to “any dwelling house, including a mobile home used as a residence, or a modular home, on land not his or her own which he or she may lawfully possess, by lease or otherwise,” the Florida Legislature by Florida Statute §222.05 eliminated the transportation test and extended homestead protection from forced sale to all such “dwelling houses.”
It would seem that the real issue before the U.S. Supreme Court is, why in Florida wouldn’t a “floating home” in most instances qualify as a “dwelling house.” This would be a logical extension of the term and the homestead protection under the Florida statute beyond just mobile homes or modular homes.
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